Elizabeth Rubin’s long, detailed New York Times Magazine article about Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, mentions in passing that educated Afghanis who leave the country and later return are known as “dogwashers.” But Rubin doesn’t explain the provenance of this unusual expression.

Fortunately, the Internet comes to the rescue! According to Jessica Mosby, a contributor to the woman’s-themed Web site The WIP:

“Dog washer” is a commonly used derogatory term for Afghanis who fled and later returned. The idea is that those who leave Afghanistan take the lowest level job in their new country (for example, a dog washer) but upon returning to Afghanistan, exude a haughty air of superiority.

Similarly, a footnote to the journal article “Afghanistan: Imperatives of Stability Misperceived” by Ahmad Shayeq Qassem explains:

“Sag-shoy” (dog-washer) and “peshak-shoy” (cat-washer) are two derogatory Persian/Dari terms used in post-Taliban Afghanistan to denote the menial nature of employment some of the expatriate Afghans allegedly received in exile.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.